Two ways to cook... vanilla

Vanilla gives many sweet dishes their distinctive flavour. Here it is used in panna cotta, and to flavour a decadent doughnut filling.

 

GARY’S WAY... VANILLA CREAM DOUGHNUTS WITH VANILLA BOURBON MAPLE SAUCE

My first memories of vanilla would have to be after Mass on a Sunday and hitting Whoriskey’s shop in Ramelton with Mammy or Daddy and picking up ‘a block’ (as we called it). We’d shoot home and have the usual lovely Sunday dinner. All I could think of though, was the wafer of vanilla ice-cream. I’d a sweet tooth then, and I still do. Vanilla is expensive at the best of times, but in recent months the price has almost doubled, due to a bad harvest in Madagascar, one of the world’s largest producers of the spice.

For this reason, it’s best to get as much out of the pod as possible. After scraping out the beans, be sure to keep the pods. I like to stick two or three scraped pods into our sugar at home to infuse it over time with a beautiful vanilla flavour. If I’m making certain jams or chutneys, I use this for an added kick. Here, I’ve used vanilla to flavour a cream filling for these beautiful doughnuts. This is a recipe we often use in Viewmount House as one of our petit four options. The cinnamon sugar really adds depth of flavour and richness to the doughnuts.

VANESSA’S WAY... VANILLA PANNA COTTA

It’s a paradox that the global popularity of vanilla ice-cream means that kids call it ‘plain’. Sweet treats would be much more restrictive without vanilla, the dried fruit of an orchid plant. Splitting vanilla pods open and poaching them in a cream-based liquid gives a wonderfully intense flavour, which is why I consider panna cotta a quick, yet impressive, do-ahead dessert.

Panna cotta is usually made with 100 per cent cream, but I have created my own version which substitutes milk for a significant quantity of the cream, a win-win formula, to give a lighter, smoother textured dessert. For my lactose-free daughter, I make it with lactofree milk and cream, with perfect results. If you don’t have dariole moulds, ramekins will work too.

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